The challenges of translation addressed at All Eyes on Korea literature talk

On 26 June, the KCC UK Korean Literature Workshop opened with a KCC official’s welcoming speech followed by Dr Grace Koh’s lecture (SOAS).

Grace Koh talks about post-colonial literature
Grace Koh talks about post-colonial literature at the KCCUK (Photo courtesy of the KCCUK)

Dr Koh emphasized the paramount importance of national identity in post-colonial literature. To introduce Korean literary works to the English-speaking world, we need to understand the issues surrounding translation. They are reception – both local and global, identity and language, aesthetic terminology, ideology, and representation.

This was followed by Agnita Tennant’s speech. Agnita, who has translated many Korean novels including the epic novel, T’oji, said that there needs to be some academic pursuit about languages which cannot be translated easily between different languages and advised translators to choose their source material carefully.

Finally, the Poet Ra Hee-duk was introduced to the participants. There were four tables laid out for participants. Each table had four to 8 people. The poet recited her poem (The Word for “Yeo”) in Korean to the participants. Its English translation was provided and the participants were told to read this version and do some brainstorming of their initial reaction in the form of poems, drawings, or narration. Afterwards, groups had the opportunity to present their creative responses either as a collaborated piece of the table or smaller groups or individually.

The responses revealed how literary texts trigger the readers’ own understanding and their own interpretation. The poet thanked everyone for their on the spot creative responses. It was a productive and creative evening for the participants who were either translators, language students or members of the general public interested in Korean literary works and languages.

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